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Tara Arts up for two awards in annual Stage Awards 2017 and star calls for colour-blind casting…

Tara Arts up for two awards in annual Stage Awards 2017 and star calls for colour-blind casting…

December 23 2016

Refurbishment winning hearts and minds – and Preeya Kalidas calls for colour blind casting…

TARA ARTS, one of the country’s best known and longest established multi-cultural theatre companies, has been nominated for two The Stage Awards 2017, revealed yesterday.

Founded and still run by Jatinder Verma as its artistic director, Tara has been nominated in the Theatre Building of the Year category and the Sustainability section (which recognises how a theatre is responding to environmental challenges).

Jatinder Verma, director Tara Arts

Verma told “We are thrilled the new Tara Theatre has received two nominations for the annual Stage Awards.

“Ever since the theatre was opened in September by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, our new Tara has delighted audiences, artists and visitors, proving there is a hunger and evident pleasure in multi-cultural theatre.

“The annual Stage Awards are amongst the most prestigious in the theatre industry. It is therefore particularly pleasing for our theatre to be recognised by our peers.”

The Tara building in Earlsfield, South London, has been completely refurbished and reopened after being shut down for about 18 months.

It is highly original in that it blends eastern and western architecture in a way rarely seen in a public space in the West. The giant door to the actual theatre is from Tamil Nadu, and reminiscent of many of the grandest houses and palaces in South India. Outside in the garden, there are small trinket display plaques built into the wall and again it is a feature commonly seen in the subcontinent, but not in the West.

The main stage door originally from Tamil Nadu

In its nomination, The Stage said the building was an “intriguing mix of traditional and modern” and felt “both lived-in” and “new” and that it was producing “important theatre with multiculturalism and diversity at its core”. It said the building’s reputation was drawing more visitors and there was a real “buzz” about the place.

It is currently playing host to a multi-cultural panto in “Bollywood Jack”.

Tara is up against King’s Cross Theatre, London and the Royal Court in Liverpool. Situated on derelict land at King’s Cross Station, the King’s Cross Theatre grew from a single tent into a new 500/1,000 seater (depending on its layout). The Royal Court in Liverpool is a grade II listed building which has undergone refurbishment – the first since 1938 – and has blended old and new in a way The Stage said the city could take great pride.

In the sustainability category, Tara was recognised for its solar panels, recycled materials use, earth stage floor and seating taken from Courtyard Theatre, the former temporary home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The nomination said Tara was an example to other new building theatre projects in what could be achieved on the sustainability front.

Nominated in the same category is The Handlebards – a travelling Shakespeare troupe that carries its sets to locations by push bikes – not just in the UK but as far afield as Singapore. Also nominated is The London Theatre Consortium, made up of 14 London venues, it is a collective initiative determined to reduce theatre’s overall carbon footprint.

The trinket spaces in the courtyard outside
Several award nominations recognise the breadth and diversity of Britain’s theatre landscape.

Recently, star and broadcaster Preeya Kalidas called for more colour-blind casting as she plays Patty Di Marco in the Andrew Lloyd Webber production of “School of Rock”.

She told The Stage that it was “fantastic progressive casting on the show from Andrew Lloyd Webber” that led her to get the part of the Di Marco, whose character is American Hispanic.

Preeya Kalidas in Bend It Like Beckham musical (pic by Ellie Kurtz). At the time we called for Preeya to get a part in a big West End musical

She felt that more colour blind casting would open up the theatre to more talent from a diverse set of backgrounds.

A recent report by Lloyd Webber Foundation concluded that the theatre remained “hideously white” and called for more colour blind casting and more support and encouragement of ethnic minority talent from drama school and beyond.

In all, there are 10 award categories in this year’s Stage Awards and the nominations were agreed by a panel of 50 prominent industry figures and editorial staff from the paper.

The winners will be announced at The Stage Awards on January 27 2017 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

The Stage is the UK’s premier theatre news publication and can trace its origins back to 1880.

Main picture top: Steph Haiselden (right) – for Tara; portrait of Jatinder Verma by Sunita Baxia

About Tara refurbishment

Full list of nominations and categories:


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Written by Asian Culture Vulture